Netflix has one of the spookiest horror films I have ever seen. Believe me when I say that halfway through this movie, I turned on my lights out of fear that someone or something was watching me. Boy, that weekend was full of scary moments!
It should come as no surprise that films like The Grudge have become horror classics since we know that Asia does horror better than any other region. However, this particular film is almost created for streaming—many have even dubbed it the horror genre’s future on streaming services.
On July 8, 2022, Netflix made the Taiwanese horror film Incantation available for international viewing. Since then, it has become a huge hit among viewers. Still perplexed as to what makes this movie so spine-chilling? How about intricate incantations, a possessed child, mountain cults, and a propensity for investigating things that should be left alone? So, either keep reading or stop.
Exploring the storyline – ending explained!
All I can advise is to proceed cautiously if you have read this far because it indicates that you want to learn everything about this movie. Do not believe anything you see or hear, and do not believe me either. The film chooses to deliver its scares using home videos and found footage. It is divided into two timelines: one in which Li Ronan, the main character, is desperately attempting to save her possessed child, and the other in which we discover the cause of the issue — how she came to be cursed in the first place.
Ronan, who narrates the movie, encourages the audience to remember the insignia and recite the Blessing Incantation “Hou-ho-xiu-yi, si-sei-wu-ma” with her in order to grant blessings and remove the curse she had inherited six years before. Together with me, chant Hou-ho-xiu-yi, si-sei-wu-ma. Incantations and badges are regularly used in the film to encourage the audience to pray. Undoubtedly, the most important questions are: Who is Li Ronan, how did she become cursed, and what exactly is this lethal curse? Let us examine everything in chronological order.
At the outset of the movie, we learn that Ronan has suffered multiple personal tragedies in the last few years which led her to be placed under psychiatric care. In the present, she has been deemed fit to go back to normal life and thus, was finally reunited with her daughter, who had previously been placed in the foster care sister because Ronan had been deemed unfit to care for her child when she had her mental breakdown. From the foster home run by Ming and his assistant Mrs. Hsia, Ronan picks up her daughter.
However, trouble strikes the moment little Dodo comes to her new house and is reunited with her mother. The little girl begins to see and hear things in the house, electricity surges, doors banging open, things falling down – all the hallmarks of a haunting beginning but surprisingly, Ronan isn’t as scared as you or I, or any normal human being experiencing a haunting would be. She keeps repeating the blessing incantation in a self-soothing manner, hoping that it will get her through it, also indicating that she is fully aware of the curse that plagues her and those around her.
We swiftly discover via found footage that six years ago, when Ronan, her boyfriend Dom, and Dom’s cousin Yuan recorded a ceremony for their Internet channel, Ghost Busters, they violated a religious taboo. Sometimes curiosity does kill the cat and satisfaction does not bring it back – as happened with Dom and Yuan. The Chen clan, who were related to Dom and Yuan, lived in a distant village where they practiced an occult religion and worshipped a goddess known as the Dahoi Buddha-Mother.
They went there with the sole purpose of exploring a forbidden cave for their YouTube channel, with the hopes that they would stumble onto something supernatural, and boy did they find what they were looking for. All three of them were then requested by the clan to offer their names along with a prayer to the Mother Buddha. After the ritual, the clan elder pointed out that Ronan was pregnant, which came as a shock to both her and her boyfriend. However, what was even more unsettling was that the clan elder told Ronan that once her daughter was born, she would also have to follow suit and offer her name to Mother Buddha as well.
With the ritual done and dusted, the trio returned to their lodging, a little hut in the village however, their true purpose had not been achieved. Yuan pushes Ronan and Dom to accompany him as they explore the tunnel and they set off at night, after dinner. On their way, they witness the clan elders engaging in a ritual in which a young girl appears eagerly prepared to be sacrificed. They then come across an unconscious female with runes all over her body in front of a tunnel they intended to go through, but they get caught snooping and are banned – there is a lot of chaos and they are returned to their lodging and are instructed to not move an inch for the rest of the night.
However, just like many other famous YouTubers of today, they venture right back when the coast clears to get the footage they came for. Dom and Yuan break down the tunnel’s barricades and enter it with their camera while Ronan waits with the unconscious little girl at the entrance of the tunnel. Terrifying events transpire and we see Dom’s lifeless body being taken out of the tunnel by the villagers while Yuan later emerges crying frantically. Yuan then turns into an animalistic being, bites Ronan, and then kills himself, leaving Ronan scarred, thus her admittance to the psychiatric ward.
But, what does all of this have to do with the present? The answer lies in what was in the tunnel and even though Ronan tried her best to extract the footage from the mangled and broken camera that Yuan was carrying, the file was corrupted and she was unable to access it.
In the present, her daughter, Dodo’s situation keeps getting worse and worse. In order to record her new life, Ronan intends to start a “digital life diary” because she is looking forward to seeing her daughter again. The mother-daughter team embarks on a brand-new phase of their lives. The reserved Dodo begins to open up to her mother as Ronan takes care of her and makes all the necessary arrangements to keep her comfortable. Their world is flipped upside down when they immediately start experiencing paranormal activity and hauntings in the house.
Dodo is often discovered sleepwalking at night, calling her name again before making a shrieking noise under the covers. Ronan discovers odd bugs in her luggage at her place of employment. A mysterious apparition that Dodo refers to as a “baddie” disturbs her. Additionally, Ronan begins to feel the effects of the curse once more, and her mental state gradually deteriorates. At one point, Ronan’s realtor expresses concern about some Buddha sculptures placed on the balcony when Ronan seeks to sell a house that she had likely previously lived in.
According to her, many clients were alarmed by its existence. She was discussing these things with the broker when Dodo slipped out, up to the balcony. She is later discovered in the area containing the strange-looking statues. Ronan was shocked to discover her young daughter there because she was fully aware of the danger it presented. As soon as she picked up her screaming daughter, she hurriedly departed from there and on the way home, Dodo experienced an epileptic attack; the physicians diagnosed her with hemiparesis.
A social worker notifies Ronan that the court has terminated the custody rights while she is in the hospital. Before social officials arrive to remove her daughter, Ronan tries to flee with Dodo. Ming, the empathetic owner of the foster home, assists her in escaping. Dodo calls him “Daddy,” and he takes them to the house he grew up in.
However, even that does not make things better as the curse follows them around, wherever they go. They then go to a shrine to try and break the curse. The webcam that recorded the footage of the tunnel was ritually cleansed by the priest Mister Ching and his wife, Madam Ching, at the shrine to try and counteract the effects of the curse.
They then consent to risk their lives to exorcise Dodo and end the possession. Ronan grudgingly consents to their request to restrict Dodo from eating anything for the following seven days. But as Dodo’s condition worsens and hideous sores start to sprout all over her body, Ronan breaks her fast by giving her a pineapple.
However, Ronan makes Dodo throw up the pineapple after realizing the consequences of breaking the fast, but the damage has been done. She realizes that she has failed to finish the exorcism when a maggot appears along with the pineapple. When Dodo returns to the temple, Ronan finds Mister Ching dead. Madam Ching succumbs to demonic possession and ends her life and poor Dodo is discovered hovering near the ceiling before tumbling down to the ground once more.
In the meanwhile, the damaged Ghost Busters video of the tunnel from that fateful night six years ago is repaired by Ming, using fixing software while he conducts further study into the religion of the Chen clan. His health continues to deteriorate as he concentrates more on comprehending the footage. Ming starts bleeding from the nose and starts losing teeth. But he persists, and he eventually discovers a twisted scroll writing in the video. He takes a plane to Yunnan in search of a Tantric Buddhist monk who is one of the few translators of old Brahmic texts that can shed light on the history of the incantation that the cult frequently employs as a purported blessing.
Ronan then receives the video of the Yunnan monk from Ming, who explains the history of the disciples and the significance of the incantation. Ming informs Ronan that he wouldn’t give her access to the updated footage of the tunnel for fear of cursing her and expresses regret to Ronan for alerting the Social Affairs Bureau to her shortcomings as a mother. And finally, he becomes possessed and violently bangs his skull against his computer before killing himself, sending Ronan the footage of the tunnel in the process.
She watches it and gets to know the truth about what her friends saw that day but we’ll come to that later. Ronan speaks to the audience about what she discovered in the Ming-sent footage of the Yunnan monk. Ronan describes the “Hou-ho-xiu-Yi, si-sei-wu-ma” incantation as an old religious benediction. From Southeast Asia, this religion migrated to Yunnan and to the area where Dom’s family lived.
The god that their ancestors revered is known as Dahi Mother-Buddha. They have received negative karma from their wicked deity from one generation to the next. To obtain blessings, they must recite incantations. As a result, if many people chant, the power of blessing will be accumulated, and it will shield the chanter. She requests that everyone in the crowd shout it together to save her kid.
She decides Dodo would be safe without her, so she transports all of Dodo’s possessions to the foster home and records a video telling Dodo to forget her mother and be content in case she awakens. In the forbidden passage, Ronan repeats the spell and sacrifices the ear after applying runes to every part of her body. She invites the audience to join her in reciting the incantation.
Then Ronan admits that she had been deceiving the audience the entire time. It is revealed that the Yunnan priest had informed Ming that the Buddha-Mother is actually a wicked entity. Reciting the incantation submits oneself to the curse rather than bringing forth blessings; once you submit your name with the incantation, you consent to spread the curse. The incantation spreads as more individuals recite it, weakening the curse and easing the strain on those who are under its influence.
The Mother Buddha’s face, which needs to be hidden, is the source of the curse. After asking for the viewer’s name and making it to the altar inside the tunnel, Ronan then shows the Buddha-wormhole-like Mother’s visage on camera. Ronan believed that by deceiving people into watching the tunnel video, she could weaken the curse just enough for Dodo. She becomes possessed and repeatedly hits the altar with her own skull. The movie closes with a clip of a now-happy and healthy Dodo, hinting that the audience has been affected by her curse. Because it has diminished to the point where she is no longer ill and can now live a regular life.
The incantation and the curse in specific, are the main focus of this movie, and the climactic reveal really shocks the viewer. Are you scared you share the curse now?
Everything you need to know about the deadly curse!
Have you watched the movie? Well, then you’re pretty much cursed according to the logic presented in this movie. But how exactly does it work? In order to save Dodo, Ronan pieces together information concerning her curse with the aid of her foster father, Ming. We learn through her that the cultists revere the Mother Buddha, a malevolent divinity, not a divine mother.
The members of the cult form a sign with their hands and chant an incantation to summon the Mother Buddha’s wrath onto themselves. The weight grows more difficult to bear the more one investigates the curse – the key is to not think about it and never look deeper into it. The members of the cult give up their names to the malevolent deity and submit to being the cross of the curse. And when one gazes at the face of the Mother Buddha, as Dom and Yuan did, the weight of the curse is at its highest, driving the person mad and forcing them to commit suicide in the most gruesome ways.
The footage from the tunnel also reveals that the inhabitants performed a number of rituals in the tunnel, including placing numerous mirrors and other objects to deflect negative energy and restrict the curse. By moving objects inside the tunnel, photographing things they shouldn’t have seen, and destroying certain mirrors that held the evil, Dom and Yuan desecrated the holy site. They discovered a veil covering the statue’s face when they got to the Mother Buddha altar. The face, which is the source of her strength, is shown when the veil is taken off. Then Dom became possessed and killed himself by hitting his head. The incantation and the emblem are both necessary to disseminate the curse, which begins when the statue’s face is seen.
In an effort to lessen the curse and save Dodo, she also faces the camera while displaying the face of Mother Buddha to the viewers. It turns out that she understood that participating in the spell, saying it, chanting it, and even reciting it in your mind as you watch along, means sharing in the curse and she knew this ever since she first entered the tunnel. Because sharing in the curse also dilutes it, she misleads viewers with her footage.
The only method Ronan sees to save Dodo is by making other people invite the curse onto themselves. Everyone watching the film suddenly gets to see Mother Buddha’s face. Anyone with trypophobia or the fear of holes will be disturbed by this impact because it is simply unpleasant. But according to the logic of the movie, all viewers that made it to the end had to now share in the burden of the curse.
What we have learned about the incantation is that it is written as “Hou-ho-xiu-yi, si-sei-wu-ma,” but non-Chinese speakers won’t understand what it means. However, a native Chinese speaker has claimed that it probably has some roots in a Southern Fujian dialect like Hokkien. It apparently roughly translates to “Where there is fortune, there is also misfortune,” however “Misfortune accompanies fortune” is another possible translation.
The Director and other production members have repeatedly assured viewers that the Mother-Buddha is definitely not a real deity and everything starting from the religion, paintings, symbols, and chants were all made up by the team. What do you think?
Marvelous Verdict: A disturbing and terrifying story that you cannot skip!
Incantation, a mockumentary horror film starring Kevin Ko and Chang Che-Wei, is presented as Ronan’s recovered footage. A good-natured video project about Ronan’s reunion with her baby, who she had given up six years before, quickly turns into a terrifying paranormal investigation. Even while this method of filming can be difficult due to its ambiguity, it nevertheless manages to be captivating. And not simply because your eyes will be strained, trying to take in every gory detail. The way Ronan structures her videos makes watching them a participatory experience.
Word is that this movie was apparently partially influenced by true events, which may sound familiar to those who recall a strange incident that occurred in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in 2005: A family of six who claimed to be controlled by Chinese folk gods consumed human waste and set each other ablaze with incense to “drive away the demons” The two girls of the family tragically perished as a result of the incident. Within a few days of Incantation’s Netflix release, around 70,000 people on the Chinese review site Douban had indicated that they had seen the movie. 84,000 more people had made it a part of their watchlists. The movie swiftly rose to the top of the Taiwanese box office charts, becoming the highest-grossing Taiwanese horror movie of all time.
In the first scene of Incantation, Ronan breaches the fourth wall and requests that the spectators memorize an emblem and recite a ritual that will reportedly lift the curse and save her daughter.
The more people that are cursed, however, the less potent the spell is, as is discovered at the end of the film. The audience members who have repeated the spell will also be cursed, which may initially seem like a good thing. The concept for the film came from online culture, particularly cursed chain emails and texts, according to movie director Ko. This unexpected twist in the movie has divided internet users: some who are frightened have prevented religious types from watching the movie, but unaffected viewers continue to watch and praise the film for its thrills and scares.
Incantation demonstrates that there is still life in found video horror and counteracts the few portions of its plot’s slow pace with ominous ancient ritualism and a few startling thrills.
The technical challenges of the discovered footage genre, where acting is intended to represent the changing moods of a real person observed on film, are handled successfully by Tsai Hsuan-yen as Ronan. Tsai portrays Ronan’s fervent hope for her daughter’s redemption as progressively being crushed by hefty, horrifying terror in Incantation.
Ko and co-writer, Chang present the narrative as a puzzle that needs to be solved and do so by using oblique, albeit unsettling, allusions to a terrible curse. only to provide a significant information dump to answer the queries they raise all at once. However, propelled and lifted by the pervasive and emotive family drama in Incantation, they save their revelations with a deft twist.
This terrifying Taiwanese horror has a deeper core than a mysterious curse. The gentle examination of a mother’s love for her daughter is where it is found. The film Incantation is a unique introduction to the horror genre because of the loving relationship between Ronan and Dodo and the threat of their separation, which adds a whole new level to the fear of the story.
The movie makes amazing use of the found footage style of filming and adds into the film, horror, and cult elements that keep the viewer hooked till the very end. The reveal of the blessing actually being a curse is like a sucker punch to the stomach if you’re a horror fan who believes in the occult or just in general likes to stay away from all things paranormal. Did the curse scare you? Let us know in the comments section below!